6 ways to annoy someone with arthritis

6 ways to annoy someone with arthritis

Sarah Dillingham - CEO & Founder
5 minute read

Living with arthritis is challenging.

It's even more challenging when you receive unwanted advice on a regular basis.

We asked the Women with Rheumatoid Disease community to tell us about some of the most annoying advice they've received. 

Friends and family: we know you mean well, and you are trying to help, but please think twice before you throw out any of these comments. 


1. "You're too young!"

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Some are degenerative (which means that they occur as people age) while others are inflammatory (which means that they can occur at ANY age).

There are even juvenile forms of arthritis that occur in children. 

It feels hurtful to be told that you are too young to have arthritis.

You do not know more about someone's health condition than they do, and you are not a member of their medical team, so please keep those opinions to yourself. 


2. Copper bracelet

Copper bracelets have been touted as arthritis cures for decades.

There is no medical evidence that they are effective but they do remain popular.

Well meaning friends and family will sometimes gift copper bracelets to people with arthritis.

While this is a kind thing to do, it can feel uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of a gift like this.

Nobody wants to wear a therapeutic bracelet on their arm that doesn't work (unless it's especially pretty). 

Linda says:

"I have had rheumatoid for over 55 years and yet people think I've never heard of wearing a copper bracelet.

It can be irritating, but I keep in mind that this person wants to help me, so I don't take offense or get mad about it. Negative emotions are not good for us physically, so stay positive as much as you can."


3. "We all get tired!"

Everyone gets tired, it's true.

People with small children, people working long hours, people who care for elderly family all get extra tired.

But the fatigue that comes with chronic pain, and especially inflammatory health conditions, is a different kind of tired.

It's closer to the kind of tired you feel when you are coming down with the flu and all you can think of is "I have to lie down NOW."

Patient surveys regularly show that fatigue is one of the hardest arthritis symptoms to manage and live with.

Feeling like our family and friends don't understand exacerbates this. 


4. "Have you tried this diet?"

There are many arthritis diets and supplements.

These include things like AIP diet, gluten-free, celery juice and apple cider vinegar.

There is lots of evidence that maintaining a healthy diet can improve arthritis symptoms, by keep weight manageable (less pressure on joints) and eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties. 

We regularly hear stories of people who have improvements in symptoms and even remissions, and we love it when this happens, it's always fantastic news.

The problem is that a diet that works for one person, does not necessarily work for another.

The arthritis world is awash with various diets and supplements, which are heavily promoted to arthritis patients.

Most people with arthritis are already well aware of what's out there diet wise.

Cooking from scratch with arthritis can be difficult, especially with severe hand or wrist pain.

There are also some arthritis medications like prednisone, where weight gain is a common side effect. 

We are doing the best we can, and, yes we have heard of turmeric thank you very much. 

Natalie says: "I know what foods trigger a flare and don't eat them anymore, stop trying to tell us what we should do."

Pressuring someone into trying a particular diet or food is not helpful, especially when the insinuation is that people are only ill because they are not following the 'correct' diet:

Suzanne says: "The implications are that you are really just overweight so that's the problem. It makes my blood BOIL."

It becomes unkind and even dangerous when it involves shaming people for taking medications rather than relying on diet alone:

Clair says: "The worst advice I was given was: "Get off those meds, they are poison and they are killing you."

Always talk with your doctor / rheumatologist before starting or stopping any arthritis medications or diets. 


5. Animal treatments

Pets can get arthritis too but animal arthritis treatments are not suitable for humans.

Offering your dog's CBD peanut butter to someone with arthritis is a bizarre thing to do. Yes, it's happened to me and yes it was a very awkward conversation. 

Maggie says:

"I had a lady tell me that stinging nettles work for her dog, so they should work for me."

This shouldn't need saying, but that is very poor advice.

Humans and dogs are different species which is why we have vets. 


6. "Think positively!"

We are big believers in practicing gratitude and minimizing stress. 

But blind positivity can be dangerous because it glosses over the realities of living with arthritis.

Nikki says: "Think positively - FFS!!"

Arthritis is a life long condition, with no cure.

It can affect your life in all sorts of unexpected ways, and it's important to acknowledge that. 

Some people need to grieve the loss of plans they had made, and expectations they had for their lives.

Being realistic about the impact of arthritis is the first step to accepting it, and to managing it as part of normal day to day life. 


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